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The Devil You Know

September 3, 2008

I love a juicy political season – and this Presidential election is definitely juicy. The Veeps have been chosen and both sides are focused on each other in a solid attack stance. The rhetoric and the rumor are flying, and the American voting public is left to slosh through the muck and the rinds in order to make a qualified, intelligent decision.

McCain has managed to wheeze some serious life into his campaign with the very deliberate pick of Alaska governor Sarah Palin – someone with a Hallmark Channel Movie life story and staunch conservative pedigree. It also helps that she’s some odd 30 years younger than McCain – so from her perspective she has a pretty good shot at living out Geena Davis’s role in Commander in Chief. GOP sneakiness aside, the fact is that her choice as VP is historically relevant, since she is the first woman to be chosen for that position in the history of the Republican Party. Of course, anybody with a little perspective might recall another woman by the name of Geraldine Ferraro who was the first woman to ever be chosen for the Presidential ticket. And, for those of you who don’t know, she was a Democrat. This shouldn’t detract from Palin’s historical relevance, though. After all, there’s something significant about the Republican Party crawling into the 21st Century. Apparently the Evangelical Right is pretty excited about McCain’s choice – which again proves that even backwards, judgmental people can be dragged out of the 1950’s. This shows me that change is indeed possible.

Obama’s choice of Joe Biden came with its own bit of controversy. The New England Irish bulldog is a beltway insider with heavy foreign policy experience – precisely what the GOP argues Barack Obama lacks. While that comes with it’s own plusses and minuses because insiders make me nervous, foreign policy experience in a VP would be a welcome change to Darth Cheney and the multi-national corporate take over that he’s encouraged through allowing oil companies to write domestic energy policy and by rubber stamping no-bid contracts favoring Halliburton to provide essential services for troops in Iraq. Biden has a reputation for talking too much and sometimes saying the inappropriate thing – and while this could be a concern, at least he’s telling off dictators instead of telling members of Congress to go fuck themselves and shooting his friends on hunting trips. We can’t mention Joe Biden as the Veep, of course, without mentioning the Hillary issue. Choosing Biden as the 2nd seat on the Democratic ticket did cause some ripples among Clinton supporters; many of them, as passionate and ideological supporters do, held out for the hope that Hillary would fill the ticket, and there was every reason in the world to choose her; she’s got a lot of political savvy, she’s got foreign policy experience, and she electrified a significant number of democratic voters simply because of the potential historical significance she represents. The fact is, though, I never really thought she’d take the VP nod; it’s simply not in her best interest. And, high falutin’ ideas aside, politicians will never do what is not in their interest. Hillary is a prominent Senator from a prominent state. She’s young enough to run again in her own right, and running as a former Vice President has rarely, in the scope of history, been a glowing recommendation. While the push for “historical significance” is strong, politics is a game of pragmatics. And she probably realizes that she can have more influence as a Senator than betting on being second in line for the big chair.

There were all the usual media-exacerbated concerns about healing “fractures” in the Democratic Party; but generally, these were unwarranted. When Hillary finally saw she wasn’t getting the nomination, she threw all of her support behind her party – because that’s what a savvy politician does. Encouraging division within the party would have only cemented McCain as the next President – which, as usual, the GOP takes for granted as fact – and Senator Clinton is smart enough to know that another Republican President would not necessarily make her more marketable in an election four years from now. Moreover, ideologically, making Obama’s life miserable would only serve the interests she has claimed to be opposed to.

What’s most interesting to me, though, is the thought on the part of some GOP’ers that Sarah Palin will somehow pull disenfranchised Hillary supports over to the other side of the political spectrum. Here are some things to keep in mind about Gov. Palin:

  • she is anti-choice;
  • she thinks Creationism should be taught in school next to Evolution as a viable scientific theory;
  • she has long supported the drilling of ANWR oil reserves; and
  • she has gone on record as saying that she doubts human action is the main driver behind climate change.

Any comparison of her views to Hillary Clinton is almost pointless. Likewise, any comparison of her views to those of staunch Hillary supporters is equally useless.

The supposition that Hillary supporters will jump ship to vote for a woman, purely because of her gender, is short sighted and insulting. This confirms for me what I have long suspected: the GOP neither takes us, nor our progressive ideals, seriously. In fact, there’s a certain amount of condescension in assuming that anybody who identifies with progressive ideals would simply jump ship because Palin has an inny instead of an outy. This focus on genitals is pure pap – which, I’m sad to say, I have come to expect from the neo-con agenda setters in the GOP.

Let me be clear. I don’t care how old McCain is. Being 72 and being out of touch are two different things. Likewise, I could care less about Sarah Palin’s gender – or her inspirational story, either. I didn’t initially support Hillary, but it had nothing to do with her vagina or her last name. I simply liked Obama better; I found his rhetoric more hopeful (which all any of the candidates have really offered at this point, if we’re being honest), and his vision closer to my own. I’m inclined to like Biden as a VP, but my opinion has very little to do with his age, his experience, or the fact that he rode the commuter train from Washington each night so that he could be with his kids. My vote is not contingent on sentimental things like appeal or whether or not I could see myself drinking with them. The fact is, even if Obama hadn’t won the nomination, I would have voted Democratic anyway; not because I’m a straight party voter, but because I vote my conscious. I vote based on my ideals and my political beliefs. I am pro-choice, pro-union, and I’m in favor of universal health care. I think we have an obligation to educate our children and to make all education accessible for those who want it. I am against the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and I have been from the very beginning. I believe that if we’re going to have a government, then that government has an obligation to serve the people, not shackle us with impossible personal debt and the weight of corporate welfare. I vote the way I vote because as long as I’ve paid attention to politics, I’ve never seen a Republican politician who cared about regular people – including Reagan, whose two terms I remember quite succinctly.

If Democracy is going to survive, we have to get over our urge to hero worship our leaders; even the best leaders are only standing in the place of ideas. People are necessary to turn ideas into action, and our leaders are only people. Their feel good stories and family moments are good fodder; but when it comes down to it, these things are only distractions designed to lull us into a more malleable state. We need to vote for leaders who we believe can lead, not ones we want to shoot hoops with.

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